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Top 10 Sports Philanthropists

May 24, 2012

Most professional athletes make ridiculous amounts of money, and a lot of them give some of that money to charity. More importantly, they use their celebrity status to create awareness to these charities so that millions of other people help out. So which athletes have raised the most awareness and funds for charity? The results are in... here are the Top 10 Sports Philanthropists:

No. 10: Doug Flutie Sr. :: Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism

Little QB that CouldDoug FlutieCourtesy of the NFL

Doug Flutie was an exciting quarterback for Boston College. He was small (5’10) and used his ability to elude bigger defenders to make astonishing plays. One 1984 play was so magical it bears his name: the “Hail Flutie.”

And Doug, with his wife, Laura, has used his fame to help families get the help they need for their autistic children. The foundation has raised more than $13 million since 1998.

No. 9: Jeff Gordon :: Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation

Speed SpecialistJeff GordonCourtesy of NASCAR

One of the top NASCAR drivers for more than two decades, Jeff Gordon is a four-time Sprint Cup Series champ and as Daytona 500 winner three times.

But it was the challenge faced by a member of his crew whose son battled leukemia that spurred Jeff to start a foundation to help children with cancer. The foundation spends more than $1.4 million yearly through grants and work at the Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital in Concord, N.C.

No. 8: Tiger Woods :: Tiger Woods Foundation

Golf's GreatestTiger WoodsCourtesy of the PGA

Everyone knows who Tiger Woods is as he has won so many PGA titles, he could become the greatest golfer to ever play the game.

The Tiger Woods Foundation has as its mission to help children get a college education. Through scholarships and Tiger Woods Learning Centers in Washington, D.C., and Southern California, the foundation has helped give students a chance to get ready for, and then pay for college.

No. 7: Mia Hamm :: Mia Hamm Foundation

Soccer GreatMia HammCourtesy of Mia Hamm

Mia Hamm was at the top of the soccer word: A gifted player helping Team USA reach the top, her ponytail swishing through the air as she made spectacular plays. There was even a Barbie doll crafted in her image.

Behind the scenes, Mia started her eponymous charity, which is dedicated to raising funds and awareness for families needing blood transplants and continuing the growth of opportunities for young women in sports. Her foundation has raised more than a million dollars through charity events like celebrity soccer games.

No. 6: Andre Agassi :: Andre Agassi Foundation for Education

Tennis StarAndre AgassiCourtesy of the ATP

Andre Agassi was the wild child of tennis. While most tennis players wore white back in the 1980s, Andre came out of the shadows with neon colors and funky hair. Fortunately, Andre also had game to back up his style.

Andre started his foundation which aims to make sure kids get a chance at an education. He made and built Agassi Prep, a charter school in his hometown, Las Vegas. The charity took in $25 million alone in 2009.

No. 5: Derek Jeter :: Turn 2 Foundation

Baseball's BestDerek JeterCourtesy of MLB

Derek Jeter has been the heart and soul of five World Series champions with the New York Yankees. But right from his rookie season in 1996, Jeter knew he wanted to help others. That’s when he decided he wanted to start a foundation. His focus would be on children and helping them lead healthy lifestyles.

Over the years, Derek's Turn 2 Foundation has distributed more than $12 million to “create places that promote and reward academic excellence, leadership development, and positive behavior.”

No. 4: Muhammad Ali :: Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center

Boxing's BestMuhummad AliCourtesy of the WBA

He may have been “the greatest,” but for all his floating like a butterfly, Muhammad Ali took some brutal beatings during his amazing career. All those punches added up, and possibly contributed to his being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center was established in Phoenix in 1997. An annual celebrity fight night hosted by Ali and his wife has raised millions for the cause. More than 800 patients are treated each year at the center, a National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence, and 2,000 take part in classes.

The former heavyweight champ also established the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky, which is dedicated to preserving and sharing his ideals and promoting respect, hope and understanding.

No. 3: Cal Ripken Jr. :: Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation

IronmanCal RipkenCourtesy of MLB

Cal Ripken Jr. is baseball’s modern day ironman. Known for a Herculean work ethic that allowed him to play in a record 2,632 consecutive games, he helped revive the game after a bitter strike.

Cal's foundation, named for his father who was a coach and manager for Junior’s Baltimore Orioles, seeks to help disadvantaged children through baseball and softball programs.

In 2010 alone, the charity took in more than $8 million, allowing it partner with cities from Maryland to Texas to build Youth Development Parks, which are designed to give young people a safe place to play.

No. 2: Magic Johnson :: Magic Johnson Foundation

Love that LakerMagic JohnsonCourtesy of the NBA

Magic Johnson was a basketball icon: Within four seasons he had won a state high school basketball title, an NCAA hoops championship in a titanic match-up with Larry Bird and an NBA title with the Lakers.

And then came the news in 1991 that transcended sports: Magic had contracted HIV. The superstar turned the devastating news into a teaching moment, educating the nation about a disease that at the time sparked fear among many people. So he created the Magic Johnson Foundation to not only to educate people about HIV/AIDS, but also to improve urban communities.

Over the years, it has helped hundreds of thousands of people through scholarships, outreach programs, the purchase of technology for classrooms and the distribution of toys at an annual holiday party.

No. 1: Lance Armstrong :: Lance Armstrong Foundation

Greatest CyclistLance ArmstrongCourtesy of the Tour de France

Lance Armstrong is definitely the greatest cyclist ever and he did it while battling cancer. With a record seven victories at the Tour de France, Lance made a foundation that has raised more than $400 million to help cancer survivors and their families. Now that's big time charity!

Donors to the foundation can be spotted by the yellow wristbands bearing the LIVESTRONG legend.


Have Your Say

Who is your favorite athlete philanthropist? Anyone you want to add to the list?